By MSGR. RICHARD LOPEZ, Commentary | Published May 28, 2020
Malik Mumtaz Qadri was executed by hanging on Feb. 29, 2016. He has become a hero in Pakistan to some. His tomb is a shrine where people go to pray and do him homage. Hundreds of children are reportedly being named in his honor.
He is a “hero” because he was a bodyguard who murdered the man he was supposed to protect—Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab province of Pakistan. Why did Qadri kill him? Taseer fought against the blasphemy laws of Pakistan that allow Muslims to accuse Christians and others of blasphemy against the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad.
The punishment is life imprisonment for offenses against the Koran and death for insulting Muhammad.
Taseer, a Muslim, was a true hero, who fought against bigotry and anti-Christian persecution. Christians are a tiny minority in Pakistan, less than 2 percent of the population. Hundreds of Christian girls have been kidnapped and forcibly converted and married to abductors. Others have been imprisoned or murdered because the blasphemy laws have been used as a form of revenge and hatred.
The heroic Taseer also stood up for Asia Bibi. She was a Catholic farm laborer who in June 2009 stopped to drink from a well in the heat of summer. She offered a cup of water to one of her fellow workers, and then all hell broke loose. A Muslim woman screamed that she had “dirtied” the well and made the water undrinkable, because she was Christian. The workers screamed at her: “You should convert to Islam to redeem yourself for your filthy religion.”
Asia’s courageous reply should be spoken from every pulpit: “I am not going to convert. I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?” Four days later, she was beaten almost to death by a mob and put in prison. She was tried and sentenced to death in November 2010.
Thankfully her case gained worldwide attention, and thankfully heroic Muslims like Taseer came to her defense. After she spent eight years on death row, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her of blasphemy. Recently she was released and joined her family in Canada. Her case is one of thousands involving Christians facing persecution throughout the world, whose suffering is addressed by the Catholic agency, Aid to the Church in Need. Yet their recent poll stated that American Catholics are less concerned about Christian persecution than they were a year ago.
Thank God, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., has written a letter to the prime minister of Pakistan, pleading for civil rights for Christians in that country. Meanwhile, 36,000 people have been murdered in Nigeria in the past 10 years. Read the homily preached by Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, at the funeral of 18-year-old seminarian Michael Nnadi—who was killed by kidnappers—to get an idea of what is happening in Nigeria. On Feb. 11, Bishop Kukah said, “Every religion has the seeds of its own redemption or destruction.” Qadri is the seed of destruction in Islam, and Taseer the seed of redemption in Islam.
Our Muslim politicians in the United States need to go on record challenging their co-religionists to stand up for civil rights for their minorities, as we do here. During this pandemic, I challenge the Catholics of Georgia to do something for the almost 300 million brothers and sisters worldwide who suffer for their Christian faith. Visit www.churchinneed.org/christian-persecution to learn about what is happening, then offer your support for the church in China, Nigeria or any other place where Christians suffer. Participate in Mass once a week for the persecuted—and pray to have the gutsy faith of Asia Bibi!
Msgr. Richard Lopez served for many years as a teacher at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta.